- Thu, 2004-10-14 15:39
The Wonder Stuff released their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine back in 1988, Hup in 1989, Never Loved Elvis in 1991 and Construction For The Modern Idiot in 1993. The band had three top 10 albums, but are probably best known for hit songs, Welcome To The Cheap Seats, Size Of A Cow and their 1991 cover of Dizzy which they released with Vic Reeves scoring the band's first No. 1 single.
In 1994, the Wonderstuff sadly split at Phoenix Festival. 1998 saw Miles reuniting with former Wonderstuff member Malcolm Treece, during which time the acoustic duo toured the US and UK, followed by Miles’s solo debut, Hairy on the Inside, where he collaborate again with Malc Wonderstuff fiddler Martin Bell.
Escape From Rubbish Island sees the return of The Wonder Stuff with a more rockier, 4-piece guitar driven sound than the previous albums with a nod to The Eight Legged Groove Machine but with the sophistication of Construction For The Modern Idiot.
We caught up with Miles Hunt to talk, music-making, mountains and marketing, as The Wonderstuff, tour the UK and release their new album, Escape From Rubbish Island (October 2004).
“I like music because… my friend Damien Dempsey says when you get a musical orgasm it’s actually better than the other one!'' Miles Hunt, The Wonderstuff.
ILM: So first up, how have you enjoyed your summer or have you spent most of it in the studio?
Miles: We managed to get all the recording finished in May, and we started rehearsals three weeks ago, and my daughter lives down by the seaside in Devon, so I went down there and enjoy going there.
ILM: Your new album Escape From Rubbish Island is out. It’s got a rockier edge than previous records; can you give us your personal description of it?
Miles: I look at it, when I do any kind of writing, especially with Martin, we stick to the same formula we started with in 1986 really. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle-bit, double chorus, end. There’s obvious developments to the sound and we’re older than we were and have different tastes in what we like to hear these days, but the motives when writing a record is to please our own ears, and that’s remained the same.
ILM: Which track did you have the most fun making?
Miles: It was interesting really, because we took pieces of ideas in and we only had a friend of ours, Luke Johnson, for a week, so a lot of the stuff that he was playing to, the songs weren’t actually finished, so we arranged them after we got the drum tracks down. So it was all a good deal of fun with a good atmosphere. Our producer Matt Terry runs a studio in Stratford-upon-Avon, so we were based on a farm in Stratford-upon-Avon for the best part of four months, which was brilliant! Most of the time Mark Macarthy, our bass player, and I live in London, so it was particularly good for me and him to get out and onto the farm.
ILM: You’ve had plenty of top 20 hits and have been making music and touring since forever, what musical and personal ambitions do you still have to achieve?
Miles: The way we look at it, you’re as good as the next idea or the last idea you wrote. Malc and I in the old days when The Wonderstuff were getting ludicrous commercial success that we didn’t particularly realise we were getting into, and certainly had no interest in, and it eventually was what broke the band up. Malc and I are very simple in the fact that we get our greatest stuff when we sit across from each other at the coffee table, knocking out new ideas. And that’s something we’ve been able to do together and we’ll continue together, and that’s our aspirations. Sadly, for those that need a little bit more scandal to do rock stories, that’s as big as the story gets.
We love going out and playing gigs, that is, for us, essential. We’ve got a new drum and new bass player in the shape Andre and Mark Macarthy. It’s a brilliant unit it feels like now, very tight and vital and spiky, and it’s sounding more like we sounded in 1988 then we did at any other period (except in 1988 of course).
On the tour we play a set of 25 songs, only seven of which are new. We played Cambridge and London this weekend and, to be honest, it couldn’t have gone better, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it.
ILM: What’s your favourite track to play live?
Miles: From the old ones, we’ve brought back a track that was the last track on Hup, and we haven’t been playing this live for years and years, called Room 4-10, and we’ve been closing the show with that and I love playing that. I can’t imagine why we ever stopped playing it to be honest.
Out of the new ones, there’s song called Was I Meant To Be Sorry, and that’s my favourite on the whole album, and I really look forward to playing that.
ILM: Any tips or advice for budding artists and producers starting out?
• Stick by what you know, because you’re probably right.
• Completely avoid anything to do with the major record company world.
• Anyone who tells you they can make you a star and help your career is a lying bastard, because nobody in the world has that ability.
• Enjoy playing live if you’re a band – that’s your greatest gift, so make yourself amazing at it and people will always want that. There’ll be various changes that will go on within the music industry, in terms of how we consume our music it, the one thing that will never ever change is that the human animal likes to go and see other human animals perform – whether that’s at a rock concert or the opera, is that is not ever going to go away, so be good at it and people will always react to it.
• Control your own business. Get a manager that’s a mate who can look out for you. Start and run your own label and try to stay independent, because that’s the way you’ll be able to feed your kids and your music won’t be diluted.
ILM: You’ve written so many songs, how do you know what’s going to be right for an album and where do you like to write?
Miles: If we like it, it’s in. It really is that simple. I would never know how to write the perfect hit single because I know other people will like it, I don’t have a third eye or ear, we write to please our own ears. The law of averages says if you like it, a couple of other people are going to like it.
ILM: What influenced you to get into music in the first place and did you do music at school?
Miles: My uncle Bill who actually plays keyboard on this album, he was in Wizard when we were young, so there was a guy in a rock band in our family, which was all very intriguing to me and my younger brother. By the time punk rock and new wave happened in 1976 our dad encouraged me and my brother very much to listen to the likes of The Clash and The Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello, and we were lucky to have that. Because he realised that music was as important to our generation as Bob Dylan was to his. So he wanted to make us aware of it and enjoy it.
Malc’s the same. He’s a couple of years older than me and he was actually going to see The Sex Pistols and The Clash, while I was still asking my mum if I could stay out ‘til 10 o’clock at night.
ILM: What does the future hold for the Wonderstuff?
Miles: As far as the band’s concerned, this is it full time now. Solo projects are all on hold. We’ve done some stuff for children’s cartoons, and I’d like us to branch out and do more work with film and TV shows under the name The Wonderstuff.
What’s on our minds at the moment is getting this tour done and then we’ll be demo-ing some new songs and getting out to USA in March and then in the studio to record the next album and that’ll be out on September 27th next year (2005). That’s very much the mentality of the whole of the band, and it does feel very exciting at the minute, I’m thrilled.
ILM: Martin Bell and Gilks have posted a message on the wonderstuff.com site saying that the rest of the original band have nothing to do with the tour or recording and say it’s a marketing ploy, but you and Malc played to 17,000 people in only three nights last December, and The Wonderstuff simply has a new line-up, as I see it, what’s your response?
Miles: Of course it’s a marketing ploy. The likes of Oasis or The Rolling Stones they don’t change the name of their band after every release like you do album titles, of course it’s a fucking marketing ploy and you don’t need a fucking drummer to spell it out. I have no interest in whining babies at all, as much as I appreciate the past of The Wonderstuff, I’m far more interested in it’s future.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
Miles: The Longming which is a lovely range of hills in South Shropshire. I have a house up there, and sometimes you can go on top of the hill on a Spring morning and be above the clouds and it’s breathtaking. And it’s right on the doorstep of my house.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Miles: There’s a band who’s touring with us called DarmaDrive, they’ve released their debut five track EP called Audio Porn to coincide with the tour, and I’m blown away by that, I think it’s amazing.
I really like Beverley Knight’s latest album. She’s my favourite performer in the last few years. Damien Dempsey, he’s a great friend of ours but also happens to be the greatest singer songwriter of the last 20 years as far as I’m concerned. He’s got an album called Seize The Day and it’s on the same label as ours.
ILM: Please tell me your favourite tune that makes you instantly smile?
Miles: You Get What You Give by The New Radicals
ILM: instantly dance?
Miles: Midnight Train To Georgia by Gladys Night And The Pips
ILM: and instantly chill out and relax?
Miles: Any of the first five Joni Mitchell albums.